Opinion

When agile marketing is not Agile Marketing

TrinityP3's Zena Churchill argues that not only is the term ‘agile marketing’ being misused, it is also being misunderstood.

I love a buzzword as much as the next person, which is why I love working in marketing. Some of my favourites include, gamification, amplification, customer-centricity, authenticity, influencer and agile marketing.

Wait, what? Agile marketing isn’t a buzzword, it’s a genuine go to market strategy that has been transported across from the world of software development and is now being successfully utilised across marketing teams from education to garden centres. Isn’t it?

Well, no. It isn’t. Agile marketing is a term that has taken on a life of its own within the marketing industry and, usually, not only is the term ‘agile marketing’ being misused, it is also being misunderstood.

There’s no denying there are many brands who have successfully implemented agility into their marketing teams. But I would hazard a guess there are three times as many brands calling their marketing agile, when all they are being is fast, or worse reactive (but really, really fast to react).

Let’s get this straight. Reactivity is not agility. Just because your marketing team are reacting quickly does not mean they are practicing agile marketing.

Over the past two years, I have spoken with or worked closely with brands who believe they are practicing agility in their marketing. And while they may be employing some elements of what you would find in an agile marketing function, such as social listening or campaign testing, they are not implementing the more critical elements of agility.

Four reasons you should stop calling your marketing agile:

1. It’s competitor led, not customer led

Like all good marketing should be, agile marketing is all about the customer and delivering the best possible customer outcome. Identifying the best customer outcome comes from implementing solid test and learn practices that will drive insights to improve the customer experience – across product, delivery, customer service etc.

These insights will instigate a change in tactics, while keeping the overarching strategy in focus. Agile marketing is not about watching what the competitors are doing and making changes to product or communications to one up them. This is what I call ‘blind marketing’ and trust me, this is still happening.

2. Inter-departmental collaboration is missing, in other words, only the marketing team are doing it (or, so they believe)

This may come as a shock to Susan in accounts, but customer experience involves the entire business. A marketing team can’t be agile if the rest of the business is working separately in a traditional, linear manner.

This is because agile marketing involves cross functional teams coming together to work on being able to deliver on a customer outcome. Whether it’s finance, technology, R&D, dispatch or HR, they all need to be working alongside marketing to be able to move quickly and efficiently to deliver on the necessary customer outcomes.

Without this, a marketing team is just reacting to a problem within their own remit, which usually means changing the headline on the current campaign.

3. The leadership team isn’t engaged

To be implemented properly agility needs to permeate throughout the entire business and this can only happen if the leadership team is on board. Marketing has a hard-enough time in some companies justifying themselves as more than just a ‘colouring in department’, a mentality which tends to stem from leaders that don’t fully understand the role of marketing.

Add to the mix a marketing team using terms like agile, making quick decisions based on *gasp* customer feedback and constantly testing and iterating smaller, more targeted campaigns and you can guarantee the leadership team will hate the marketing team even more.

Due to a critical factor of true agile marketing being cross functional workflow and collaboration, the implementation of agile marketing must be supported by the leadership team. And, it must be given the tools, structure and space across the entire organisation to be able to deliver the best customer outcomes for positive bottom line growth.

Marketing and management must work together, without this, your brand cannot call itself agile. Period.

4. Lack of empowerment

The most effective and efficient agile marketing teams are built around motivated team members from across the business who have been brought together to develop and launch products or solutions to deliver positive customer outcomes.

Decisions are made quickly, transparently and with the backing of data and feedback. This cannot happen if the team is not trusted nor empowered to do so. A lack of empowerment is a result of the third point around a disengaged leadership team and is one of the hardest changes traditionally run organisations face.

Why? Because it is forcing those comfortable in a more traditional structured way of working to be more entrepreneurial in their approach to the day to day, and it means relinquishing control. This is not easy for a lot of managers.

Zena Churchill is a senior consultant at TrinityP3. This post was published on the TrinityP3 blog. 

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